Statement on the Confederate Battle Flag

confsolidThe tragic event that occurred at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston has been both heart and gut-wrenching. For me, the response has stirred even greater emotions. The acts of kindness, compassion, support, togetherness, and forgiveness are awe inspiring. I could not be prouder of my hometown and my State. This tragic event has also reopened a deep and divisive wound, that of the Battle Flag flying at the Confederate Soldiers Memorial on the grounds of the South Carolina State House.

The Battle Flag is intended to pay respect to those who lost their lives defending their homes and families during our great country’s bitter civil war. Many good and honorable people understand and appreciate that history. Unfortunately beginning in the 1950’s the flag was hijacked by hate-filled groups and individuals that do not share that understanding or respect for this country’s history. They instead use it as a symbol of their narrow-minded views and ideologies. In truth, we can only blame ourselves as we have allowed this minority to go unchallenged for too long. As a result, for too many of our citizens, the flag represents pain, oppression, cruelty, and division.

Make no mistake, the heinous murders in Charleston were not caused by the Battle Flag. They were the result of an individual’s lack of respect and value of human life. Removal of the flag from the monument of Confederate Soldiers will not restore the precious lives lost that fateful day at Mother Emanuel AME Church. Nor will it prevent future acts perpetrated by people intent on spreading terror, hate, and chaos in the name of some false heritage. However, if by placing the flag in a museum, where it’s true and accurate story can be told, helps to focus the discussion on the real problems facing our state and true solutions rather than empty and equally divisive rhetoric, I am supportive of that action.

It is important to also note that the Confederate Battle Flag is an extraordinary symbol. My willingness to remove it from the State House grounds should, in no way, be confused with a willingness to acquiesce to any attempt to remove other historical monuments or recognitions from our State’s history or public spaces. I will not support an attempt to sanitize or rewrite our history.

South Carolinians are a good, caring, respectful, and grounded people. Pride and love of family rightfully runs very deep. Because of that, I understand that many will disagree with me on this issue. Nevertheless, each of us will continue to be proud South Carolinians.

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